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Community initiatives including mental health first aid training for barbers, and counselling for bereaved relatives, are set to benefit from a £10 million funding boost.
A dedicated support package has been provided to local NHS, public health teams and voluntary organisations across England to strengthen suicide prevention plans and provide practical and emotional support to friends and family who have lost a loved one to suicide.
The funding will be used to set up tailored projects to care for people in high-risk and vulnerable groups such as those who self-harm, middle-aged men and hospital patients with mental health illnesses.
The majority of the money – £8 million – has been allocated to bolster suicide prevention initiatives across 30 local areas, including 15 new projects, during the 2020/21 financial year. The remainder is earmarked to provide bereavement support for people after a relative or friend’s suicide.
Support will range from one-to-one sessions with trained volunteers or counsellors, group support or signposting to specialist mental health services.
Local and grassroots initiatives will also include suicide prevention training programmes, awareness campaigns, some specialist support services for the most vulnerable people at risk of suicide and phone, video and online support.
Funding is also allocated for suicide bereavement support services, including bereavement liaison officers who will provide practical and emotional support for families and loved ones impacted by suicide.
These services, usually provided by local voluntary and community sector organisations, are a key component of local suicide prevention pathways.
Claire Murdoch, NHS national director for mental health, said: “Every death by suicide is a tragedy for the person, their family and friends – with countless lives devastated as a result, which is why we continue to expand access to mental health care, including offering help from different and convenient community locations, and are working around the clock to support people through the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
The pandemic has turned lives upside down for many people and this funding will support our mission to ensure appropriate suicide prevention programmes as well as suicide bereavement support services are available right across the country. I would urge anyone concerned about their mental health to come forward for help as the NHS is here for you.”
Mental health and suicide prevention Minister, Nadine Dorries said: “Suicides are truly devastating and those left behind can suffer indescribable pain and grief. It is vital those coming to terms with a loss have access to the right types of support.
“We want everybody experiencing mental health problems to be able to get the help they need before they reach crisis point and these new initiatives will provide vital support networks in the heart of our communities.
“The NHS is there for everyone who needs it and this funding delivers our NHS Long Term Plan commitment, providing support to communities across the country and strengthening suicide prevention plans and support services.”
The funding will help to deliver the commitment set out in the NHS Long Term Plan that by 2023/24 every region and system across the country will benefit from the current suicide prevention programme and have suicide bereavement support services.
Hamish Elvidge, chair of The Support after Suicide Partnership, said: “There are over 5,000 suicides in England every year and each one has a huge impact on the families, carers, friends and colleagues left behind. Their lives are turned upside down, with feelings of loss, guilt, disbelief and rejection.
“The Support after Suicide Partnership believes that everyone bereaved or affected by suicide should be offered timely and appropriate support and is working closely with the NHS and our members to establish support services in every area of the country. These services, provided mostly by local, voluntary organisations, offer emotional and practical support, which will help people cope with their loss and start to rebuild their lives.”
- Recognising that men spend more time with their barber than their GP, local organisations in Greater Manchester have commissioned the Lions Barber Collective charity to offer free training for barbers in the area. They have developed an initiative – BarberTalk – which gives barbers the skills to recognise the signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health and how to help clients get the support they need. From 10 September to 10 October, 40 barbers will be given training online as part of this project. They will be added to the Lions Barber Collective ‘Locate a Lion’ map and listed on Greater Manchester’s Shining A Light On Suicide website.
- In the South West, the funding will be used to expand the Hope Project which covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. The project provides support to men aged 30 to 64 who are experiencing psychological distress, in debt or financial difficulties, dealing with housing or employment issues as well as those who have recently self-harmed, and are not in touch with other mental health services. Over the last 12 months, the project has supported more than 250 men, significantly more than the original target of 180.
- In the South East, an enhanced bereavement support service will be launched this month to ensure anyone living anywhere in Sussex who has been affected by a family member or friend taking their own life will receive emotional and practical support from a dedicated bereavement liaison officer and the opportunity to access counselling. The new enhanced service will have a Single point of access, a triage service, a bereavement liaison and counselling service based in each of its three local authority areas and a Sussex wide Children’s and Young People’s bereavement service.